Who is this elegant lady? A noblewoman surely, and most likely a member of the court of Cosimo I de' Medici, Duke of Florence in the mid-sixteenth century. Her ornate and costly attire establish her as an aristocrat. She holds herself rigidly with the controlled demeanor that distinguishes portraits of members of Cosimo's court. Bronzino was the principal portraitist to the court, and one wonders how much his own coldly idealized, polished style of painting may, itself, have contributed to the taste for the marble-hard perfection and chilly hauteur of his models.
Tucked in the corner of the panel, the small blond boy was an afterthought, added by Bronzino in a second campaign of painting. X-radiography has revealed that the woman had first stood alone with her proper right hand placed against her dress. Not only did Bronzino insert the ivory-skinned child, but he also brought the woman's apparel up to date: her headdress grew larger and more elaborate; the puffed sleeves of her dress were broadened (a change evident in the darker silhouette of the contours that were painted over the green background); the gloves were added and, probably, the damask pattern on the bodice as well.